Director’s Exhibition Tour : “What a Cat Sees”

Words and Pictures by Vernon Fisher 

“What a Cat Sees,” 1985 Nickel plated steel, metal primer and epoxy; Courtesy the artist.

This week I’ve been thinking about Fisher’s sculpture titled “What a Cat Sees”. It is made from Nickel plated steel, rolled and attached to the wall. In the essay I wrote last year for the exhibition’s catalog, I share that the reflective surface and floppy edge make me think of a carnival house of mirrors, meant to challenge one’s perception. In the fold of the curve the artist has painted a silhouetted image of a figure in profile, with a large crooked nose, wearing a tall pointed hat and a billowing cape and gripping a broom-like rod. When I told Fisher I saw this as the ‘wicked witch of the west’ (from the televised version of The Wizard of Oz), he asked me what made me think that? What makes one read these visual characteristics as ‘witch’ or ‘wicked’? My perception came from a childhood watching the movie every year, but this concept is a fiction, with a unique history of development to which not all people have been exposed. What do we know about what we see then, if as Fisher shows us in this piece, what we see depends on our unique experiences? Ultimately, “What a Cat Sees” is an expression of what it may feel like to try to know another and to be known by him. Fisher remarked to me in conversation, “Whether or not we can know another’s mind, we are trying with all our might.”